Both the El Paso County Democrats and the El Paso County Republicans held watch parties at the Antlers Hotel in downtown Colorado Springs last night. There was surprise on both sides, as Donald Trump gained the electoral advantage over the course of the evening.
Mayor John Suthers opened the evening with a speech in the lobby of the hotel, which was a neutral zone. He acknowledged the divisiveness of the presidential election, and encouraged Colorado Springs citizens not to lose hope despite how unpopular the candidates are.
"The one thing that all of us have control over is our attitude, and I ask you to have a very positive attitude going forward after tonight in terms of our country's future," he implored.
The atmosphere at the El Paso County Democrats' watch party was jovial initially. There was live music. People wore name- tags and mingled. Organizers said more than 500 people registered to attend.
Democrats had some cause to celebrate. State House democratic candidates Tony Exum and Pete Lee both won in districts 17 and 18 respectively. Cheers erupted throughout the ballroom when Colorado went for Hillary Clinton and when Michael Bennett beat Darryl Glenn in the senate race.
The mood took a turn, however, as more and more states went red in the presidential election.
"I'm nervous, I really am. I'm quite surprised and shocked that it's this close actually," said Judith Chandler as the results rolled in. Chandler has lived in El Paso County for more than 35 years and owns a Women's Health clinic. "I've been supporting the Democratic party for a long time so of course I'm hopeful, but the bottom line is I will support whatever the outcome is, but I'm really hoping Hillary's the next president of the United States, and our first woman president."
As it became more and more unlikely that would be the case, the ballroom room emptied.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, what began as an uncertain night transformed into a scene of euphoria, culminating with the announcement that Donald Trump had likely clinched the nomination. As the crowd cheered, multicolored balloons rained down from the ceiling.
Chants of "Trump!" and "USA!" rang through the room.
Deputy director of Donald Trump's National Security Council and Transition team, Mark Scraba, took the stage to celebrate.
"On behalf of Mr. Trump and the campaign team headquarters in New York, we have taken back America!" Scraba exclaimed.
He went on to praise voters for their support of Trump, saying "you are the 21st century version of the patriots, the revolutionaries, and the pioneers who settled the west. Because of you, we can now drain the swamp!"
The crowd echoed Scraba with chants of "drain the swamp!"
Jeff Hays, El Paso County Republican Chair, explained the meaning of that phrase, which has been a popular refrain at Trump rallies over the last few months.
"People have, in some sense it’s a correct perception, that there's a lot of corruption in government," said Hays, adding "I think there's a hope that people are going to be treated more fairly by their government, the government's going to stick to the things it's supposed to do, namely defending our rights, keeping us alive and free, and not being so involved in personal gain and aggrandizement for people in government."
The excitement was palpable as revelers filed out of the ballroom around midnight, victorious.
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